Johannesburg drivers in a fine mess

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File photo: Boxer Ngwenya

The sending of and queries for traffic fines for offences recorded by camera will no longer be dealt with by the Johannesburg metro police, but how or where Joburgers can query these fines is unclear.

These fines must be issued in person or through registered mail, says the Aarto (Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences) Act.

The Johannesburg metro police department was sending them through regular postal services.

On Thursday transport minister Ben Martins said the Road Traffic Infringement Agency took over the issuing and handling of queries in November.

This was revealed in a written reply to advocate Anton Alberts and Pieter Groenewald from the Freedom Front Plus party in Parliamen.

An RTIA spokeswoman, Mthunzi Mbungwana, could not immediately give the procedure for how to query a fine through the agency, even though it had been handling fine queries for more than a month. She said this information had to be cleared through the relevant department before she could confirm the details.

The JMPD will now upload all infringements onto the National Traffic Information System which will then be managed by the RTIA.

The metro police should have been doing this, says the Aarto Act, but were uploading infringements onto their own system until November.

All appointments with representation officers from the JMPD to query fines have also been cancelled and will now be dealt with by the RTIA.

“Whilst this is reassuring going forward, it does not address the previous improper and indeed unlawful manner in which representations have been handled,” said Howard Dembovsky, chairman of the Justice Project SA.

The ministerial reply follows legal action taken by private company Fines 4 U, which specialises in the legal reduction of traffic fines.

It queries or pays fines for companies. While Fines 4 U had in the past applied successfully to the JMPD, recently all representations were being turned down, they said.

Fines 4 U owner Cornelia van Niekerk sent out legal notices in November to the JMPD, the RTIA and the Johannesburg council, challenging R20 million worth of fines with the JMPD. The notice requested that the respondents comply with the provisions of Aarto and that the fines be delivered either personally or through registered mail.

Dembovsky said a Johannesburg High Court application on February 12 next year would determine what would happen to fines unlawfully issued by the JMPD.

Up to November, the fines were issued and managed by private companies on behalf of the JMPD, but the minister made no mention of what would happen to these fines.

JMPD spokesman Wayne Minnaar said the issuing and management of fines by the RTIA was now “normal procedure”, but couldn’t explain how drivers could query their fines. Spokesman for the RTIA Japh Chuwe was not immediately available for comment. - The Star

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